To read our other Arrow episode reviews please go here.
- Airdate: 5/7/2014
- Director: Nick Copus (Dresden Files, Nikita, Alphas, previously directed Arrow’s “Time of Death”)
- Writer: Jake Coburn & Ben Sokolowski ( previously wrote Arrow’s “The Promise” together)
That mean old Slade Wilson had everyone – well, not Felicity – pretty much dead to rights last week, arranging a Michael Corleone-esque simultaneous hit on everyone in Oliver’s life. How are our heroes going to get out of this one? Let’s break it down:
THE RECAP –
Team Arrow –
Felicity drives a van into Isabel to save Diggle, and Laurel frees herself from rubble in the sewers using Oliver’s bow and (exploding) arrow. She departs to rendezvous with her papa while old school Team Arrow attempts to meet up with the courier from Starling City who has brought the mirakuru cure with him (thanks Cisco Ramon and Caitlin Snow!). Along the way, they’re stunned at the destruction being visited upon the city, and once they fail to get to the courier before Slade’s goons they retreat to the clock tower so that Felicity can take her turn as the one to tell Oliver to buck up after he briefly indulges in self-pity. That’s nice and all, but they were genuinely s.o.l. until Sebastian Blood, having watched the district attorney’s neck snapped right in front of him, realizes Oliver was totally right about not trusting Slade Wilson. Dude wants to watch Starling City burn. So, he steals the Mirakuru cure, and hands it off Oliver and Diggle. Isabel kills him for this treachery while Oliver can’t bring himself to test the cure on Roy (what if it kills him?). That is until he discovers from Amanda Waller that they have until dawn before she wipes Starling City off the map. Well, sorry, Roy, but your test subject #1 for the cure.
Team Lance –
Former Detective Lance is made actual Detective Lance by his boss since his argument of, “To beat the mask (Slade’s masked foot soldiers) we need the mask (Oliver)” made as much sense as anything else when superhuman bastards are destroying the city.
Elsewhere, Laurel runs into Canary in the city, quickly hugs her and calls her Sara. They have a heart-to-heart in which Sara basically says, “I’m no good!” and Laurel says, “Well, you’re a-okay in my book,” and then they move on to proving Laurel right when Sara, as Canary, is a straight up hero, running into a burning building, Spider-Man 2-style, to save a little girl. By the end, the Lance gals meet up with their dad at police headquarters, and watch TV coverage of Argus blocking off the exits out of Starling City, The Dark Knight Rises-style.
Team Merlyn –
Malcolm saves Thea at the bus terminal, and when she runs away from him outside he explains that he came back to protect her. I don’t know about that, Thea. Dude is cra…holy crap, he just defeated one of Slade’s goons in front of you. Hmm. Maybe he’s telling the truth. Yet Thea pulls a gun on him, threatening to shoot. Malcolm delivers a lovely speech about recognizing the anger in her eyes because he sadly knows all too well the pain of having loved ones ripped from you. She ends the episode firing multiple shots anyway. Remember, she has wicked aim. If she truly was firing at Malcolm she likely didn’t miss.
Meanwhile, Back on the Island… –
Oliver storms the Amazo (a name that sounds so much more stupid when the characters on the show say it out loud), frees Sara, tells her to flee to safety on the submarine with Russian guy, and when she refuses they head hand-in-hand to Ivo’s old office only to find Slade waiting for them, having already discovered Ivo’s “cure.”
There are certain things you can count on with Arrow: Felicity’s one-liners, Stephen Amell’s abs as well as his love for dramatic pauses and odd way of delaying actually looking at the person to whom he is speaking, flashback sequences, clunky plotting, and an uncanny ability to pull it all together and hit it out of the park when it counts. Season 2 has been a real mixed bag, but those “big” episodes which the show needed us to love (“Three Ghosts,” “Heir to the Demon,” “The Promise”) were pretty successful with me. However, season 1 was the same way, at least in how uniformly strong its “big” episodes were.
Last season it was Malcolm Merlyn threatening a mere portion (the poor portion, specifically) of Starling City; now it’s Slade Wilson going all Emperor Nero, wishing to watch the entire city burn to the ground. Wait, what? Seriously? Because he promised Oliver he’d destroy everything he loved, and Oliver loves Starling City? Does Oliver really love Starling City, though? He’s never seemed to have a great love for the town – just his dad, for whom he sought to fix the city to atone for his dad’s sins, and his best friend, for whom he strived to be a better hero for the city. Plus, are we seriously supposed to believe that Slade would have allowed the Mirakuru to be stolen from him by Sebastian so easily? You’d think he’d have it guarded or something.
But I digress. At this point, it’s too late to really quarrel over Slade Wilson’s motivation for his actions, the actual logic behind his plan, or something like the relative success of the season long story arcs for Sara and Laurel. I’ve done all of that in prior reviews. We are almost to the end now. You’re either with what the show is doing or you’re not, and what they’re doing is sometimes clunky, like the “Would Sebastian have been able to steal that?” question.
Similar to the season 1 finale “Sacrifice,” “Streets of Fire” attempts to pull off an action-packed final act of a big budget comic book movie on a CW TV show budget. As such, everyone is acting as if it is life or death, and we see a big stunt involving a van crashing. Plus, there are characters standing in front of obviously fake backdrops meant to make Starling City appear to be on fire. It is purely fun stuff, and given their limitations you can forgive them if the city street the van drives down clearly looks like a controlled environment with precious few civilians (i.e., expensive extras) running for safety.
Recognizing their own limitations, they chose to localize the carnage being brought about by Slade’s men since although we see far away in the distance how the city is on fire it is in locations we know (the police precinct, the mayor’s office, even kind of the bus terminal) around characters we like (Quentin, Thea) that we actually see the violence up close. Plus, they chose to work in some smaller character moments, giving Felicity a turn on the “give Oliver a pep talk speech because he’s feeling down again” carousel and finding a moment during the chaos to give Sara and Laurel a heart-to-heart.
In fact, it’s probably not any of the action (except maybe the cool van crash) but instead those two conversations which will stand out to people with this episode. Nick Copus’ direction of Oliver and Felicity’s scene was, well, odd. It began with the camera focusing on Oliver looking almost directly at the camera and then on Felicity with her head turned and hand raised to her head wound, fighting back tears. I found myself unsure as to whether or not Oliver was looking directly at her (he wasn’t), and if perhaps her head hurt far more than she was letting on (as far as we know, it didn’t). Copus’ concept was likely to begin on close-ups of the both of them not facing each other and no one else in the frame, and then to build to their hug to organically start from a position of emphasizing isolation and closing on connection, visually punctuating Felicity’s declaration, “You are NOT alone!” However, I think it got away from him, and distracted from Bett Rickards acting her but off in an otherwise potent scene.
I have no technical qualms with Laurel’s scene with Sara, though. The only thing which dragged that scene down was the slight redundancy. Felicity is far from the first person this season to cheer Oliver up (heck, she AND Laurel just did it last week), and Laurel is not the first one who’s had to ensure Sara that she is a good person worthy of love. However, Laurel was actually very endearing in that sequence, totally landing the line about the beauty of the word “canary,” and it led to a very Spider-Man 2-esque bit of Sara saving the kid in the burning building because that’s what heroes do. It might be a tad irksome that this is now consecutive episodes in which Laurel has been used as the person harnessing the hero’s inner light, with the idea being her struggles earlier in the season have imbued her with the wisdom and strength to be the one to get through to those in despair. However, it is clearly their way of revealing Laurel as having emerged a stronger person at the end of her season long story arc, although the damage the show did to her in the first half of the season is so severe it might be difficult for some to ever embrace her again.
It’s a shame Laurel couldn’t have applied her new talents to the now-dead Sebastian Blood. Kevin Allejandro likely gave more to Sebastian Blood than the writers did, and his loss will be felt much in the same way Susanna Thompson’s will: he was one of the better actors they had around. There’s a version of this season where his death would have felt more important (they just killed the mayor!), but the hint of hesitation on his part from last week was thankfully carried over this week, finally giving us among the trio of villains a, if not sympathetic, then definitely slightly repentant one. One does wonder why on Earth he truly would have thought Slade and Isabel would have left him completely alone after giving away the cure, other than blind, “I’m the mayor!” power trip.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Is it a bit much to accept that Slade means to burn the town to the ground, and Amanda Waller will blow it up to stop him (yet oddly reach the same end point)? Or that Sebastian would really be able to so easily steal the Mirakuru cure? Yeah, but did you see that part where the van crashed? That was pretty awesome, right? We are in definite heightened reality at this point, and just going full steam ahead at the end of the season is Arrow‘s strong suit. Sure, that doesn’t excuse clunkiness, but considering that they’re trying to do a The Dark Knight Rises/The Avengers scenario (city under siege, military blocking off exits/sending in the bomb) on a CW budget their reach shall slightly exceed their grasp. That doesn’t stop “Streets of Fire” from being a purely fun episode, which really built up the momentum for the season finale.
1. What was with those close-ups of Oliver’s hand on Felicity in this episode? It happened twice, after she hugged him in the clock tower, and then again as he left the tower to meet up with Sebastian. Simply clumsy directing, or foreshadowing for the season finale?
2. Oliver: “The cure is gone!” I get that’s bad, and people are dying all over the place, but that courier guy died 100% because of you. Isn’t that also kind of sad?
3. Is it cool that in the flashbacks we have now seen the moment where Anatoli pledges lifelong friendship to Oliver? Or does it just seem like a long time ago at this point that Anatoli popped up in the present day (“Keep Your Enemies Closer”) and first introduced their friendship? With his closing bit about promising to also teach Oliver Russian I assume this means we’ll be seeing him again in the flashbacks next season.
4. I am curious if Arrow could pull off the season 5 episode of Angel which followed a day in the life of Angel’s secretary Harmony, just substituting Felicity in for Harmony. However, partially because they are so tied to their Oliver flashbacks, and also due to their adherence to a fairly dramatic tone I don’t think Arrow will ever do a purely comedic episode. That’s a Joss Whedon thing. However, they did surprise me with a very funny Joss Whedon moment in “Streets of Fire” by having Felicity run Isabel over before she’d finished her evil villain speech, a trick utilized mutiple times across the Whedon shows and films (e.g., Loki and Hulk in Avengers). I loved it.
5. Thea to Malcolm: “How are you even still alive?” Like the show itself, Malcolm chooses not to give that an honest answer, or, in this case, even acknowledge the question.
6. Sara: “There’s nothing here for me.” She says that to her sister. Her sister. While the town is burning, and she hasn’t even asked if her father is okay. There’s self-pity, and there’s, “Oh, come on writers. Sara’s not that tone-deaf.”
7. Who is Slade’s one person left to die? If not Oliver then it’s the one he loves the most. The candidates: Thea, Laurel, Sara, Felicity. I’m expecting a) an unexpected option, such as Slade’s ultimate plan is to kill himself and leave Oliver to suffer somehow; or b) whomever Slade picks as the “most-loved” will be one of the potential love interests, thus instigating debate among shippers over the summer.
Well, I’ve said enough. What did you think of this episode? Let us know in the comments section.
All of the pictures used in the above review, unless otherwise noted, came from CWTV.com © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
- Arrow Review: Streets of Fire (screencrush.com)
- Arrow: Streets on Fire Grade A- (avclub.com)
- Arrow Streets of Fire Review: City, City Burning Bright (tv.com)